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Drugs and Biologics

April 15th, 2021

The efficacy of drugs vs. biologics is one of the hotly debated topics in the medical fraternity. Drugs and biologics are distinct and different from each other, but both are important components of the health industry.

How is a drug different from a biologic?
Let us understand at the elementary level: right at the level of their core. Drugs and biologics are derived from different sources. While a drug is made from a chemical synthesis and through a very precisely and scientifically defined set of processes; a biologic is derived from a living thing, such as plants, animals or microorganisms. While tablets, syrups and elixirs are typical categories of drugs; the categories for biologics generally are vaccines, gene therapies, tissues, nucleic acids and proteins. This explains the basic difference between drugs and biologics.

Another major area of difference between drugs and biologics relates to the processes that to into drugs and biologics. A drug is more precise in the sense that its processes and ingredients are properly defined. When a drug is dissected, it is possible to easily analyze the ingredients and the exact method in which it was prepared. On the other hand; a biologic is prepared using living organisms through the use of recombinant DNA technology. Since there is no chemical that it is made up of; a biologic is far less predictable and analyzable than a drug. The terminology scientists in the field use to describe the difference between drugs and biologics is that while for a drug, the process is the process, for a biologic, the product itself is the process.

It is possible to change the chemical composition of a drug at almost any time of the manufacturing process. The same cannot be said about biologics. Since they are composed of living thing, it is difficult to say the processes and proportions of the product.

The way they work
Another major difference relates to the way drugs and biologics work within the system. A drug gets dissolved much faster than a biologic. A biologic, such as vaccine, has a different purpose. Its mode of action is different from that of a drug. Thus, a drug and biologic are vastly different in the way they work on the human body.

Yet another very big difference between a drug and a biologic is in the way they are regulated. The FDA regulates both drugs and biologics; but its ways of administering these regulations are different. One of its branches, the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) is in charge of regulation for biologics.

Which is better?
While there is no disagreement on the basic difference between a drug and a biologic; a more heated debate is on the difference between the two in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. It is often claimed that drugs are prone to more side effects even if they give immediate relief from an ailment, while biologics take their time to get rooted into the body, but offer long-term benefits. There are also debates about the cost of production and their effects on the environment. While these are largely left to polemics, it is perhaps best left to one’s discretion to use the two prudently and judiciously, based on the nature of the ailment and the desired outcome.

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